Unmarried fathers in Wisconsin are not entitled to parental rights until they establish paternity and have an enforceable court order in place. Even if the father's name is on the birth certificate, this does not automatically provide the father with rights. Unmarried mothers, however, do inherently have the right to raise and control custody of the child.
The following are three ways for unmarried biological fathers to establish paternity and gain parental rights:
- The two unmarried parents can sign a Wisconsin Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form, which they can obtain at the hospital of the child’s birth, their local child support office, the local register of deeds, or the Wisconsin vital records office.
- If the parents later marry, they can sign the Wisconsin Acknowledgement of Marital Child form.
- The father can open a court case for paternity or by participating in a paternity case opened by the child’s mother or local child support office.
Once a father has established legal fatherhood of his child, he has the right to request custody and parenting time. However, the court needs to approve a parenting plan which is based on the child’s best interests. In addition, the parenting plan includes orders for physical placement, setting the child’s living arrangement and daily schedule.
Unmarried fathers do not have any obligation to pay child support if the mother or the Wisconsin courts have not identified a child’s legal father through a court action or an acknowledgment of paternity.